You can find previous posts HERE.
“Arranged?” Bingley repeated the word with no small amount of surprise. Was Jane suggesting that they arrange to compromise Caroline? He had not thought his Jane could be so scheming. While it was shocking, it was not off-putting. In fact, if he were candid about the feelings it stirred within him, it was rather appealing that she would go to such lengths to have a happy future with him and to provide the same for her sister and Darcy.
“I know it is not proper,” Jane said quickly, her courage faltering at the startled look on Bingley’s face. “But your sister has not treated either you or me well, and I dare say she has not spoken favourably about my sister to Mr. Darcy. If she were to know that we were arranging things so that a match might occur between my sister and your friend, I am certain she would find some way to interfere just as she has between us.” As she spoke her anger at how she had been duped into believing Caroline was a friend when in actuality she was nothing more than someone at whom Caroline might laugh rose. She clasped her hands in her lap and squared her shoulders. She would not faint now. She would continue on.
“In fact, I believe the reason she interfered at all between you and me can be set solely on the fact that Mr. Darcy showed interest in Elizabeth. If you were to remain at Netherfield, so would Mr. Darcy. That simply could not be allowed if your sister was to win the prize of Pemberley, which you have just now claimed is her continued goal. Therefore, one and all must be removed from Netherfield and such a danger. And one must not encourage any connection with someone like myself here in town. Why what would happen if you and I should decide to marry, and you would return to Netherfield before she could effectively ensnare her prize? Would Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield with you for a time? Would he be a guest at our home? Would he continue to be enamored with my sister? It really would be far too dangerous to allow any of that.”
“She has a point,” said Richard. “A very good point.” He smiled. “You are just as delightful as your aunt. Are all the members of your family so astute?”
Jane felt her cheeks begin to burn at such a compliment as she laughed lightly. “No, I fear they are not. Elizabeth is to be sure, Mama has her moments, and my father can outshine us all when he is roused to it. However, my younger sisters seem to lack depth. Mary shows potential if she would but see things in degrees rather than absolutes. However, Kitty and Lydia show no desire to think beyond what appears before them unless they are scheming to get their way.”
Richard chuckled. “Then I would have to disagree with you, for it sounds like all your sisters could be counted among the great minds of England in some fashion if they were directed properly.”
“That is it precisely,” said Mrs. Gardiner. “There is much potential in them all. However, there is a sad lack of guidance, and that is all I will say on that subject.” She gave a sharp nod of her head to punctuate her determination to speak no further.
“Do you have a plan for how we might deal with Miss Bingley?” Richard could not hide his interest in such as scheme — not that his interest in a scheme came as a surprise to any who knew him.
Jane raised a shoulder and let it fall. “Are there any gentlemen who might catch her eye, and who might be encouraged to pay particular attention to her with the goal of engaging her affections?”
“None that own Pemberley,” Darcy muttered.
“She is so fixed?” Jane asked.
Bingley nodded. “A starving dog would more readily give up a piece of meat than my sister will give up pursuing what she wants. She is a very determined sort of person. She always has been.” Bingley could not hide the frustration and anger he felt toward his sister.
“It is a good trait if it can be properly directed.” Mrs. Gardiner’s voice was soothing.
“Indeed, it is,” Mrs. Annesley agreed.
Bingley could not help but smile at how both women were attempting to ease his mind. “I am certain it will someday serve her well.”
“There is Sir Matthew Broadhurst,” Georgiana said quietly. “He has just arrived in town, and from what I have heard, he is rather attractive — broad shoulders, fine legs, wavy brown hair, deep brown eyes, and a pleasant expression. He is also said to be wealthy and heir to a lovely estate in Surrey. And,” Georgiana’s brows raised to add emphasis as she continued, “he has a title. There is little to dislike about such credentials.”
“It does not hurt our cause,” Mrs. Annesley added, “that his uncle’s will requires him to marry before he can take possession of his inheritance beyond the title. Therefore, he is actively seeking a bride this season.”
Jane’s brows furrowed. “If he is all those things, why is he still unattached?”
Georgiana grimaced. “Mrs. Allard says he is rather quiet and reserved.”
“Would he be ill-used by a lady who is neither of those things?” Jane asked in all seriousness. She wished to see Caroline married, and married well, but she did not wish to injure an unsuspecting gentleman in the process.
“Oh, no,” Georgiana replied. “Mrs. Allard said he is very fixed and unyielding in his opinions and standards. She suspects that is why he has not found success with the few ladies he has attempted to court in the past.”
Jane sighed. “I do not wish to see Miss Bingley tied to an ogre even if he is titled and handsome.”
“Not even if she deserves it?” Bingley asked.
“No, not even then.” Jane could not be the cause of someone else’s misery, even if that someone had caused a great deal of sorrow for her. She would forever feel the weight of such actions.
“There is only one way to decide,” said Darcy. “We must meet him. I am certain between Bingley and me, we can determine if it will be an amicable match.”
“You are not going to discourage us?” Bingley’s mouth tipped up in a crooked half smirk.
Darcy shook his head. “I am a bit surprised that my sister is the source of knowledge on such a thing, but I find I cannot fault a plan that will see you happy and clear a portion of the path for me to claim my own happiness.” He shrugged and then shook his head. “I startle myself, to be honest, but whatever part I need to play to see this through to the end, I am willing to play it.”